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MAA Northeast Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching

Dr. Pamela E. Harris is announced as the 2020 recipient of the MAA Northeast Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching.

As established by the MAA Board of Governors, the Northeastern Section Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching is made to a teacher of mathematics at the post-secondary level who has been widely recognized as extraordinarily successful. His/her teaching effectiveness must be documented and must have had influence beyond their own classroom. Recipients must be members of the MAA and be teaching in the Northeastern Section.

Eric Ruggieri, the Chair of the NES/MAA wrote:

"This is one of those times where I really wish we could be together in person so that we could give this year's winner a standing ovation for all that she does for her students.  She certainly deserves it.

Our award winner skillfully incorporates active learning and sets high standards for student work. One student wrote "From the first day of class, it was clear that this would be very different from any math class I had experienced before…. Several of my classmates and I congregated in the lobby as we were walking out of the building just to talk about how powerful and exciting that first meeting was."  A letter writer commented that our winner "works to ensure the success of her students, and helps them navigate obstacles, whether personal, professional, or academic."  This contribution to student success and development was quickly recognized by her institution, resulting in a 2018 award for mentorship.  The letter then went on to say that "[she] has a track record for building learning communities in and outside of the classroom. She develops courses that allow students to undertake original research in mathematics, thereby creating research opportunities at her institution."

This year's winner also has a prolific record of mentoring undergraduate research, a result of her driving belief that teaching and research can and should be integrated.  A letter writer noted that she has supervised 27 students resulting in 16 joint publications, numbers which have almost certainly increased since the letter was submitted.  As co-organizer of the MAA Undergraduate Student Poster Session at JMM, I can certainly verify this fact, as I've seen a flood of her students present some amazing work in a number of different areas (algebra, combinatorics, graph theory, and number theory).  One of her students commented that this experience "motivated me to excel in my math courses, tirelessly pursue answers to my research questions, and consider becoming a mathematics graduate student."

Perhaps even more impressive is our winner's international reputation when it comes to broadening the participation of underrepresented groups.  Her nominator wrote "I expect that some students have not always been kind to having a Latina at the head of the classroom, and yet she has always shown her students amazing compassion, working tirelessly to develop their sense of compassion and to bring forward the voices of the non-dominant students. … [H]er students formed a sense of identity around the doing of mathematics that had been withheld before." As co-founder, an online platform highlighting contributions of Hispanic/LatinX mathematicians, this year's winner builds community and as one of her letter writer's states "provides role models to the next and more diverse generation of mathematical scientists."  A student nicely sums this up by noting that she is "an inspiration for all students of color."

It is my honor to present the 2020 winner of the Northeast Section's Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching to Pamela Harris of Williams College.  Please join me in congratulating Pamela for all the amazing work that she has done on behalf of her students!"

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